Possible Hurricane Has New Orleans Residents Concerned Over Weak Levees
With current flooding wreaking havoc, residents are concerned that the levees may not hold back more floodwater.
With flooding hitting the city of New Orleans after severe thunderstorms moved through the area, many are worried that a possible Gulf Coast hurricane will cause Mississippi River waters to rise above the protective levees.
Officials have reported that Wednesday night's thunderstorms dropped as much as eight inches of rain in a three-hour period, according to a report by the Associated Press. The water turned the streets of New Orleans into swift rivers, making travel nearly impossible.
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“I was going to sit in my car and let the storm pass,” Chandris Rethmeyer said to the Associated Press. “But I reached back to get my son’s iPad and put my hand into a puddle of water.” Rethmeyer lost her car to the flood and had to move through about four feet of water to get to safety.
New Orleans' levees have been a concern since they gave way in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. Flooding during that storm reached rooftops in minutes after the levee system buckled, representing the first time in history that an engineering failure has brought about the destruction or near-destruction of a major U.S. city, according to the ASCE Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel.
"A large proportion of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina was caused not only by the storm itself, however, but also by the storm’s exposure to engineering and engineering-related policy failures,” the panel stated in 2007.
Despite the memory of the damages caused by Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers, who are in charge of the levee system, believe that they will be able to stand up to the upcoming storm better than they did in 2005.
“We’re confident the levees themselves are in good shape. The big focus is height,” spokesman Ricky Boyett said to the Associated Press.
The danger of the storm is very real, however, with the National Weather Service pushing for residents to stay aware, as the height of the water and storm surge can still be life-threatening even if the levees do not give.
"This weekend looks to carry the most significant flooding threat for southern Louisiana, as what is expected to be Hurricane Barry by that time makes landfall in southwestern Louisiana," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said. "Areas to the east of the landfall point are expected to see the heaviest rain this weekend, with 20-plus inches possible in spots. This threat includes New Orleans."
Residents in the area have been instructed to stock up on at least three days of supplies by city officials, as it is unlikely that the storm will reach the level 3 threshold for a mandatory evacuation.